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20 famous Indians who studied at top universities abroad

Although much is written these days about Indian students going abroad for studies, the trend is hardly new. Not only Mahatma Gandhi, but also Jawaharlal Nehru crossed the seas in search of learning. So did Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and many other Indians, famous and not-so-famous.

Student migration began in the colonial times, when the British selected bright Indians for study in Britain with the aim of developing a corps of officials to help them govern “ungovernable” India. Students continued to go to the UK after Independence, and they also later discovered educational opportunities in the US and Europe. Now, over 300,000 students board flights not only to America and Europe but also to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and even Asian nations.

We thought it would be worth finding out about famous Indians who have studied abroad. Here we give you 20 living legends (?) with foreign degrees:


Ratan Tata (b. 1937):Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, Ratan Tata saw the Tatas’ profit increase over 50 times during his 21-year tenure at the helm of affairs, making the group the top business organization in the country. Ratan Tata, who has a B.S. in Architecture from Cornell University (1962), completed the Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School in 1975.

Adi Godrej (b. 1942): Chairman of the Godrej Group and Chairman of the Board of the Indian School of Business, Adi Godrej studied at the MIT Sloan School of Management. After his return to India, he restructured the Godrej Group management and took the group to great heights during the license raj.

Anil Ambani (b. 1959): Anil Ambani, Chairman, Reliance ADA Group, heads Reliance Capital, Reliance Power, and Reliance Infrastructure. He has major interests in the entertainment business that include 44 FM stations, multiplexes, animation studios, and a nationwide DTH service. He holds an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Rahul Bajaj (b. 1938): Rahul Bajaj, Chairman of the Bajaj conglomerate, overcame the permit dispensation of the 1970s to take his group to great heights during the 1970s. He is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School.

Other business magnates with foreign degrees include (not an exhaustive list, of course) Azim Premji (Wipro Chairman; engineering degree, Stanford University); Kumar Mangalam Birla (Chairman, Aditya Birla Group; MBA, London Business School); and Anand Mahindra (Chairman, Mahindra Group; MBA, Harvard Business School).


Dr. Manmohan Singh (b. 1932): Dr. Singh, two-term Prime Minister of India, was the architect of the country’s economic reforms program as Finance Minister for five years from 1991. He holds an Economics degree from the University of Cambridge, UK, and a D.Phil. in the same subject from Oxford University.

Kapil Sibal (b. 1948): Kapil Sibal has held various portfolios in Congress governments, such as Science and Technology, HRD, IT and Communications, and Law and Justice. He holds an LL.M. from the Harvard Law School.

Najma Heptullah (b. 1940): The former Congress leader, now a BJP leader, was Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha for 16 years. Heptullah, now Minister for Minority Affairs in the Union Government, holds a PhD in Cardiac Anatomy from Denver University.

Shashi Tharoor (b. 1956): Perhaps the most articulate of Indian politicians, Shashi Tharoor is a Congress MP. Asa career official at the UN, Tharoor became Under-Secretary General for Communications in 2001 and, in 2006, unsuccessfully contested for the post of UN Secretary General against Ban Ki-moon. He earned his MA, MALD (Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy), and PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University.

Others:P. Chidambaram (Congress leader, former Union Finance Minister; MBA, Harvard Business School); Jairam Ramesh (Congress, former Union Minister; M.S. in Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania); Subramanyam Swamy (BJP, former Union Minister; PhD in Economics, Harvard University); Jyotiraditya Scindia (MP from Madhya Pradesh; graduate in Economics, Harvard; MBA, Stanford GSB); Sachin Pilot (former MP from Rajasthan; MBA, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania); Naveen Jindal (former MP from Haryana; MBA, University of Texas); and Agatha Sangma (former Congress MP from Meghalaya; Master’s in Environmental Management, Nottingham University, UK).


Arun Shourie (b. 1941): As Editor of Indian Express,Arun Shouriewas the media’s greatest warrior against the Emergency, declared by Indira Gandhi, in 1975. He was Minister of IT and Communications in Vajpayee’s government. He holds a doctorate in Economics from Syracuse University, New York.

Vir Sanghvi (b. 1956): Vir Sanghvi, journalist, author, and food critic, became the youngest editor in the history of Indian journalism when he was appointed to the top post at Bombaymagazine. At 30, he became Editor of Sunday. He was also Editorof Hindustan Times.Sanghvi, who has also hosted several TV shows, read Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at Brasenose College, Oxford.

Famous Indians who studied abroad in top universities

Arnab Goswami (b. 1973): Arab Goswami is perhaps the most popular and the most parodied Indian TV anchor. He holds a Master’s in Social Anthropology from Oxford University’s St. Antony’s College.

Madhu Trehan:  Madhu Trehan, founding editor of India Today and co-founder of Newslaundry, holds a Master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University, New York.

Others: Karan Thapar (journalist and TV commentator for India Today TV; degree in Economics and Political Philosophy from Pembroke College, University of Cambridge); Barkha Dutt (Consulting Editor, NDTV; Master’s in Journalism, Columbia University); and Rajdeep Sardesai (Consulting Editor, India Today Group; BA, MA, and Bachelor of Civil Law, University College, Oxford).


Romila Thapar (b. 1931): Professor Emerita at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Romila Thapar is a renowned historian and author of the classic A History of India. She holds a doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

N. R. Rao (b. 1934): Bharat Ratna and National Research Professor C. N. R. Rao is Honorary President of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore. He is a renowned scientist who has mainly researched solid-state and structural chemistry. He earned a PhD from Purdue University in 1958 and holds several honorary degrees from foreign universities.


Girish Karnad (b. 1938): Girish Karnad is a nationally acclaimed writer, film director, and actor who won the Jnanpith in 1998 besides several awards for his films and plays, most of which he wrote in Kannada, his “adopted language” (Konkani is his mother tongue). He earned an MA in Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics as a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford University.

Parineeti Chopra (b. 1988): Bollywood actor Parineeti Chopra holds a triple honours degree in Business, Finance, and Economics from the Manchester Business School, UK.

Ameesha Patel (b. 1975): Ameesha Patel, Hindi and Telugu film actor, graduated in Economics from Tufts University, Massachusetts, with a gold medal.

Others: Randeep Hooda (Hindi film actor; Bachelor’s in Marketing and Master’s in Business Management, University of Melbourne); Soha Ali Khan (English, Hindi, and Bengali film actor; Master’s in International Relations, London School of Economics); and Dulquer Salmaan (Malayalam and Tamil film actor; BBA, Purdue University).

NRIs, People of Indian Origin (various fields)

Raghuram Rajan (b. 1963): Rajan, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, was Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund from 2003 to 2007, the youngest person to occupy the position. He holds a PhD in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Indra Nooyi (b. 1955): Indra Nooyi, Pepsi CEO, has often been listed among the most powerful 100 women in the world. She is a postgraduate in Public and Private Management from the Yale School of Management (1978).

Salman Rushdie (b. 1947): British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie won the Booker Prize for his second novel, Midnight’s Children, in 1981. His controversial novel, Satanic Verses (1988), provoked controversy among Muslims the world over. He read History at King’s College, Cambridge University.


  • Amartya Sen: Winner of Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences; BA, MA, and PhD, Trinity College, University of Cambridge
  • Venkatraman Ramakrishnan: Winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; PhD in Physics, Ohio University; graduate in Biology, California University
  • Vinod Khosla: Co-founder, Sun Microsystems; Master’s in Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon; MBA, Stanford University;
  • Sabeer Bhatia: Hotmail founder; BS from Caltech; MS in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
  • Satya Nadella: Microsoft CEO; MS in Computer Science, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; MBA, Booth School of Business
  • Sundar Pichai: Google CEO; MS in Material Sciences and Engineering, Stanford; MBA, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
  • Mira Nair: Well-known film-maker; graduate in Sociology, Harvard University
  • Rohinton Mistry: Internationally renowned writer; BA in English and Philosophy, Toronto University

Also read:
Academic Qualifications of the Top World Leaders
20 famous Indians who studied at top universities abroad
Best degrees to get rich

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6 thoughts on “20 famous Indians who studied at top universities abroad”

  1. I am a Bcom graduate from the university of Mumbai. Currently looking for employment. I have also enrolled for a distance learning masters program (Mcom) here at the university of Mumbai. I have just started to prepare for GMAT. I have always wanted to get my MBA from Canada, but looking at the kind of job offers I am getting based on my Bcom degree, I don’t think I would be accepted by any decent B school. As all the good school require a ‘managerial level’ work experience. So my question is, should I go for a MiM program from the UK (which would require no work experience) instead of chasing an MBA? Moreover, any other advice that you may have for me.

    • Dear Pathak,
      This is Abhishek Bose from Kolkata. At present I am studying MSc management in the University of Hertfordshire in England, United Kingdom.Yes you can opt for an MiM or MSc Management programme in the UK. MiM is also focussing on Leadership skills just like an MBA abroad. And the modules are also very well structured.
      Now I have the most essential thing to tell you. Everything what happens in your life are a result of the actions you take. So have a clear vision how you want to see yourself 10 years down the line. And if you are seeking employment, focus yourself for the requirements of the global market. Job satisfaction is very much necessary for better productivity. Education is a financially ‘dead’ investment since you don’t get a monetary return compared to a fruitful investment in the Share Market, but the values learnt keeps an individual forging forward, helps to think independently….So just follow your goals, work on them….

  2. @KD: It wouldn’t be a good idea to spend more money on an international degree, hoping it’ll alter fortunes. If you think you have the potential to do well in an MBA program, you can try for CAT options in India.

    A better option would be to do well in whatever job you get now and make your employers sit up and take notice. Opportunities will come your way after that.

    Read this story about how a regular bachelors graduate did what most only dream about:


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